Most of us are familiar with the “superfood” regulars—chia seeds, turmeric, beets, dark leafy greens, blueberries—as they are easy to source and regularly found in online recipes, cookbooks and local restaurants. But there’s a whole world of lesser-known foods that should also be on your plate.
The following five foods are gaining in popularity for their uniqueness and health benefits. All possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and weight, and can be found at your local market, health food store or online.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae (technically a type of cyanobacteria) that is a concentrated source of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Unlike other bacteria, spirulina contains chlorophyll and uses the sun as a source of energy, much like plants. In the United States, spirulina is mostly used as a supplement and added to smoothies (which turns it a cool blue color), while in the other parts of the world, it is widely used to prevent malnutrition.
Spirulina contains 18 different amino acids, all of which are highly digestible, and it doesn’t require cooking to increase the bioavailability of the protein. Some of the interesting micronutrients in spirulina include vitamins B12, K and E, and iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium and zinc. Some of these nutrients act as antioxidants, cofactors for enzymatic reactions in the body, or in detox pathways. Spirulina also contains gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid necessary for skin, joint and heart health. This type of fat is a precursor to important biochemicals, which act as chemical mediators for inflammation and immune reactions.
A note of caution about where the spirulina is sourced: If harvested from polluted waters or cultivated incorrectly, it can accumulate toxins from the environment, so choose organic and check the harvest location. Because of the dark color, regular consumption of spirulina can turn stools a dark green color and may increase intestinal gas, neither of which are harmful. Start slowly to see how much your body can tolerate.
RECIPE IDEA: Make a superpower smoothie with coconut milk, grass-fed vanilla whey protein powder, 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, ½ avocado, and a scoop of spirulina. Blend and enjoy.
This exotic tropical fruit, also known as pitaya, hails from Mexico, South America and Southeast Asia. There are three varieties of dragon fruit,